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Review: Apple iPhone 4 Bumper

At a Glance
  • Apple iPhone 4 Bumper

    Macworld Rating

    The iPhone 4 Bumper is an edges-only case that provides minimal protection, but it alleviates the "bridged antenna" issue while letting you see as much of the iPhone 4 as possible.

Editor's note: The black version of the iPhone 4 Bumper is one of the cases included in Apple's iPhone 4 Case Program. For a list of all the cases offered as part of this program, as well as reviews of those cases, check out our Free iPhone 4 Case Collection.

When Apple announced the iPhone 4 Bumper, the reaction was similar to when the company unveiled its iPod Socks: Seriously? After all, it looked like a $29 rubber strip that could be approximated by a $1 LiveStrong bracelet.

But that doesn't give the iPhone 4 Bumper enough credit. For what it is—a bare-bones case that offers minimal protection—the Bumper is actually cleverly designed. It consists of a stiff, plastic band that covers the entire metal edge of the iPhone 4, combined with relatively tough rubber around the front and rear edges to hold the Bumper in place. (On the non-black Bumpers, this dual-material design gives the Bumper a two-tone look.)

The iPhone 4 Bumper adequately covers the spot in the lower-left corner of the phone where two of its external antennas meet. If you've experienced reception problems due to your hand bridging those antennas, the Bumper should alleviate that specific reception issue.

The Bumper sports precisely cut holes for the iPhone 4's dock-connector port, microphones, speaker, headphone jack, and Ring/Silent switch. Covering the volume buttons and Sleep/Wake switch are clever pass-through buttons that look and feel almost exactly the same as the actual buttons underneath.

Unfortunately, if you use accessories other than the ones included with the iPhone 4, many of these precision-cut openings are cut too precisely. Many of the third-party headphones and headsets I had on hand wouldn't work with a Bumper-equipped iPhone 4 because their miniplug casings were larger than the one on the iPhone 4's official earbuds. The Ring/Silent switch is recessed enough that it's difficult to operate if you keep your fingernails trimmed. And many USB dock-connector cables—including older Apple models—don't fit through the Bumper's opening for the dock-connector port.

Of course, as with many cases, you also can't place a Bumper-equipped iPhone 4 in dock-cradle accessories, including Apple's own docks. But because the dock-connector opening in the case is so small, you can't even work around this limitation using an accessory such as SendStation's Dock Extender or CableJive's Dock Extender Cable. In other words, to use many accessories—even Apple-branded ones—you'll need to remove your iPhone 4 from the Bumper (which is, at least, a simple task).

These limitations might be a worthy tradeoff if the Bumper provided more protection, but it leaves the entire back and front of the iPhone 4 exposed—in other words, it covers only the phone's metal parts. Granted, because the Bumper's rubber edges extend slightly beyond the front and back surfaces of the iPhone 4, the Bumper does protect those surfaces from getting scratched if you slide the phone across a table, or even if you drop the phone onto a flat surface. But if you're looking for a case that provides good protection, this isn't it. The Bumper is a case that offers the bare minimum in protection and alleviates the "bridged antenna" issue while letting you see as much of the iPhone's own surfaces as possible.

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At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    The iPhone 4 Bumper is an edges-only case that provides minimal protection, but it alleviates the "bridged antenna" issue while letting you see as much of the iPhone 4 as possible.

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